Newcastle Eagles secured their fourth straight BBL win as they cruised past Birmingham Knights at Sport Central.
As was the case against the only other team without a victory in the BBL this season – Surrey United – Newcastle’s victory over Birmingham was hardly vintage basketball, but it simply did not have to be.
It was far from flawless from the home side, but it was the kind of fixture player-coach Fab Flournoy will have wanted to have just before Christmas, with a number of his players picking up injuries in the last few weeks.
Last night’s success – Newcastle’s last home game of 2013 – also comes as a boost after they secured their passage to the BBL Cup final with a second-leg victory over Championship leaders Sheffield Sharks last week.
Flournoy was kitted up for the encounter with Birmingham but did not take to the court – still struggling with a groin strain – and nor did Drew Lasker, who also sat out with a hamstring problem.
The visitors went into the game without a win in 12 attempts this season, so the result is one which will not surprise basketball fans around the country.
Nevertheless, Newcastle finished the game with six players in double figures – four of whom had 20 or more – and given their infmaously small roster was cut by two with the omissions of Flournoy and Lasker, it was a potential banana skin well avoided.
The first period threw up no surprises for the Sport Central crowd as Newcastle rebounded well and while shooting the three-pointer was not going well – 0/5 in the opening 10 minutes – their interior presence was being felt and they outscored the visitors 18-6 in points in the paint.
After the first quarter Newcastle led 23-17 and the introduction of 17-year-old Eddie Matthew signalled Fab Flournoy’s intent as well as the calibre of opposition they were facing.
It was the second quarter when the home side stamped their authority on the game and poured on 33 points to the Knights’ 21, seeing their half-time lead extend to 56-38.
Birmingham had done little wrong for their part – they shot well and their ball movement was good – but they could not keep up in the physicality department.
Newcastle, not known for their height as a team, were ruthless on defence, dominated the boards and forced 14 turnovers by the break – Paul Gause was the main reason for this as he had five steals in the first 20 minutes and seven in total.
More of the same came in the penultimate stanza as the Eagles applied more pressure and did not allow the Midlands side any breathing room.
Gause continued to make himself known to the Knights’ players and he piled on the defensive pressure, earning two more steals in the third period. Newcastle took a 81-56 lead into the fourth quarter and soon racked up their ton of points inside the last 10 minutes.
The game had been over since half-time but the home side continued to chase down a sizeable win, Flournoy animated from the sidelines throughout the whole game. The final score was a fair representation of the gap between the two teams. Birmingham statistically played well but were simply out-gunned in key areas by one of the league’s heavyweight teams.
The win is Newcastle’s fourth straight in all BBL competitions and was a perfect way to rest injured bodies and continue their efforts to keep in touch with the other top teams in the Championship.
The win means three of the top four sides in the league have recored 11 or more victories in the opening 14 fixtures – Leicester currently sit on 10 wins and play tomorrow against Plymouth.